Essential Certifications for Aspiring Scrum Masters

Published on: April 2, 2024

 

Not many people have experienced a mini-expedition through a game reserve. But for the sake of this discussion, let’s imagine your first exploration of such a reserve. So, there you are, properly dressed and prepared, armed with an information booklet that you’ve thoroughly studied cover to cover. You’ve even gone online to read accounts from past explorers. You feel confident that you know everything about the place and could even ace an exam on it if you have to.

However, as the expedition begins, despite your extensive knowledge, you find yourself relying on one person – the tour guide. As you’re led from one point to another, you realize that the tour guide simply knows more about the reserve than you do. They know the shortcuts, the paths with obstacles, and how to navigate them efficiently.

The tour guide curates your activities, knows where you should go and shouldn’t, and offers assistance at every step to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. How do they do this? Simple! They’re knowledgeable about the reserve’s destinations, culture, and attractions, and they have experience leading many others through it. As a result, they can plan your itinerary, coordinate activities, provide insights, and keep you focused on the expedition’s goals.

This is an analogy of what a Scrum Master does in a team.

Now, whether you are just starting your career as a Scrum Master or you already have a considerable amount of experience in the role, there are high chances that you are already familiar with the responsibilities of a Scrum Master and their importance to the efficiency of a team. You already may have been doing really well leading a team of your own. However, it is common knowledge that since learning never stops, there will always be better and smarter ways of doing things – and this is where certifications come in.

Just like how a tour guide may not necessarily need certifications to deliver their responsibilities well, a Scrum Master doesn’t exactly need certifications to be able to perform their responsibilities adequately. Essentially, certifications are there to help you enhance your knowledge and understanding of what it means to be a Scrum Master and how best (according to up-to-date standards) to execute your responsibilities as one. Certifications help you upscale your skills as a Scrum Master and act as reference points in your journey towards the full mastery of the role of a Scrum Master. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that certifications help to enhance your competitive advantage in the job market and elevate your earning potential.

Consequently, there are a number of certifications available for anyone seeking to start their career journey as a Scrum Master or desiring to enhance their knowledge about the role and scaling-up from their current level of mastery. However, we will only be touching base on some important ones we can recommend for whichever stage of the Scrum Mastery journey you may be in.

If you are just starting out your career as a Scrum Master and you need to have a solid understanding of the role, especially in a structured format, then you want to check out the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) certification, which is offered by Scrum Alliance.

The CSM certification is one of the most popular foundational certifications for Scrum Masters. However, anyone also working in the capacity of a Project Manager, Team Lead, Product Owner and Software Developer can consider obtaining it, as the possession of the certification shows that you have an in-depth understanding of Scrum principles and methods and that you are able to effectively lead and coach teams.

To obtain the CSM Certification, you have to complete a two-day (16-hour) course, which is taught by a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) and thereafter pass the CSM assessment. However, your certification is only valid for two years after which you will have to renew it by paying a fee and also earning Scrum Education Units (SEUs) to ensure you stay updated with the latest developments in Scrum methodologies.

Very similar to the CSM certification is the Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I) certification, which is the first in the PSM Certification series offered by Scrum.org. In fact, the most prominent differences between the two certification programs are their assessment eligibility and certification renewal requirements. Unlike the CSM certification, anyone who seeks to attain the PSM I certification must take a PSM course provided by Scrum.org or facilitated by a Professional Scrum Trainer (PST). Also, Scrum.org considers 85% or higher the only passing score for the PSM I certification; but once you obtain the certification, you only need to maintain its validity by staying active within the Scrum community and remaining up-to-date on Scrum practices. Yeah, you got that right – no renewal fee required!

Now, if you believe you already possess a considerable amount of knowledge and experience as a Scrum Master or an Agile Project Manager, Product Owner, Developer or Team Lead and you feel you only want to build on this solid foundation that you already have, then this is for you – the Professional Scrum Master II (PSM II) certification a.k.a. “Professional Scrum Master – Advanced (PSM-A) certification.

The second in the PSM certification series by Scrum.org, the PSM-A certification helps to validate your expert-level knowledge in Scrum principles with focuses on servant-leadership, effective Scrum application in complex scenarios and Agile team leadership. So, obtaining this certification shows that you are committed to continuous improvement and that you possess a high level of proficiency in Scrum methodologies.

While the PSM-A certification is only obtained after completing an assessment provided by Scrum.org, you are required to have a strong understanding of advanced Scrum practices and most preferably, you need to have completed an advanced training on Scrum Mastery. And this is where we come in. Our Advanced Scrum Master Class at the Agile Prep Pro Community is designed to support Scrum Masters in their professional development. As further required by Scrum.org, we help you to fully come to terms with the stances that characterize an effective Scrum Master while offering deep insights into how they serve the Developers, Product Owner and organization. And what’s more? Our PSM-A comes with a free attempt at the PSM II certification assessment at no additional cost! Want to know more? Click here.

Moving on, the Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM) certification is another recommended certification for experienced Scrum Masters or Agile Professionals seeking to level up. Offered by the Scrum Alliance as an upgrade to the CSM certification, the A-CSM, just like the PSM-A will deepen your expertise in Agile and Scrum practices, while focusing on advanced techniques, expanded leadership skills, and the ability to facilitate effective communication among the Scrum team, stakeholders, and customers.

However, unlike the PSM-A certification, to obtain the A-CSM certification, you must have a CSM certification with the Scrum Alliance. Then, you have to complete a Scrum Alliance-approved A-CSM educational course, amongst other requirements.

Furthermore, slightly similar to the PSM-A and A-CSM is the SAFe Scrum Master (SSM) certification. While tailored to accommodate the development needs of Scrum Masters and Agile Professionals, the SSM certification, which is provided by Scaled Agile Inc., comes with a little twist – it focuses on the role of a Scrum Master at an enterprise level. Basically, just as the name suggests, the SSM is for Scrum Masters and Agile professionals who are in one form of leadership role or the other in scaled, complex, multi-team situations.

An attempt to earn the SSM certification will mean that you are familiar with Agile concepts and principles like Scrum, Kanban, and eXtreme Programming (XP), and you also have a working knowledge of software and hardware development processes. To be eligible for the assessment, you need to complete the 2-day SAFe Scrum Master (SSM) course from a Scaled Agile, Inc. authorized training provider, which is…guess what? Us! We offer a SSM training and certification course which provides you with all you need to know and have in order to earn your own SSM certification. Check out the course here.

Now, here is the thing – as earlier established, there is quite an amount of important certifications that you, as an aspiring or experienced Scrum Master, can opt for to scale up your level of expertise. For instance, there is still the Professional Scrum Master III (PSM III), the last in the PSM Certification series provided by Scrum.org; we have the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) – Agile Coach certification, offered by the International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile); there are also DevOps certifications, Lean certifications and Agile Product Owner certifications. What is however crucial is understanding where you are at in your journey of becoming a Scrum Master and consequently choosing the right certification program that will enhance what you already know and do as a Scrum Master, and subsequently help you maintain relevance in the global Scrum community.

Here at the Agile Prep Pro Community, we are committed to offering you the needed guidance and advantage to do just that and more. So, are you ready to embark on your journey as a certified Scrum Master? Visit our website today and explore our collection of courses.

Happy learning!

 

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